Empower Vs Permission

I wrote a response to a comment a few days ago that sparked a flurry of thought in myself. Sometimes, comments give me a clarity of thought on a topic I’ve been thinking about for a long time. In this case, it’s the concept of permission


In my recent post I wrote about mass marketing hype in art journaling and how it has damaged what was once a small close knit online community. The reason we are seeing a mass marketing boom in art journaling is because people are looking for permission. Permission is a funny thing for us. I think women especially have a hard time giving themselves permission to do things for themselves. Men, seem to have less of an issue with this, but that is a whole other discussion and blog post.* Women seem to have an easier time making scrapbooks rather than art journals. I suspect it’s because scrapping is generally not done about the creator’s life, but of those around her. most of the scrapbooks I’ve seen deal with the creator’s children, family, and friends; rarely are they about the creator herself. Why is it so much easier for women to create about others, but not themselves?


Keeping an art journal/sketchbook/notebook/journal/ etc is, in my mind, a form of self love. When a woman decides to pick up a journal and begin to work in it, explore her ideas, feelings, and record the things that she sees as important well, that in and of itself is a transformative act. It's healing. It's saying to herself "I matter. What I think matters. I matter to me. I hope I matter to the future." Giving oneself hope in our future and weight in our present moment is a hugely powerful statement. This is also a statement that is, often, very difficult to make. We look outside ourselves for validation, for affirmation that we are in fact doing the right thing.


This is why we are so ready to accept permission, in all it’s limitations, from anyone who will give it. ** Companies see this inherent uneasiness in women who want to create, and crave to create, and the need for permission to do so and use that as a tool to sell us shit we don't need. Because we are now bombarded, daily, with ads online for more classes, more tools, more of this and that; it's hard to get past the idea that we don't really need permission and that once we start, we won't want to stop.


What we really need is empowerment, not permission. You might see that as a semantic difference, but frankly, it’s important. When I give you permission to do something, I’m retaining power. I’ve got the control, and I’m not relinquishing it. When I help to empower you, I’m never in control, I’ve handed you your very own steering wheel and said, “It’s all yours.” There is no option for me to take control again.

per·mis·sion   [per-mish-uhn] noun

1. authorization granted to do something; formal consent: to ask permission to leave the room.

2. the act of permitting. (dictionary.com)


em·pow·er   [em-pou-er]  verb (used with object)

1. to give power or authority to; authorize, especially by legal or official means: I empowered my agentto make the deal for me. The local ordinance empowers the board of health to close unsanitary restaurants.

2. to enable or permit: Wealth empowered him to live a comfortable life. (dictionary.com)

Starting an art journal/journal is a powerful first step in taking control of our lives and learning what empowerment feels like.

*Male art journalers don’t seem to the have the question of can I/shoudl I/ how can I create that women do. there is less in the way of worry and questions, men tend to dive in and simply create.


** Some of you might remember when I got my undies in a knot over another better known art journaling blogger and teacher did a video giving people “permission” to art journal. Another well known art journaling blogger did permission slips that allowed you to art journal. In theory these are great ideas, but the execution of them is flawed.


In one case the instructor was using her permission granting skills to help her to push out her new line of rubber stamps. Which fine, we all need to make a living, but my gripe was with using permission granting as a ploy to gain sales. Don’t we have enough of the big companies manipulating us into buying their shit without our own community manipulating us? It also implied that this instructor was somehow better than the rest of us. She was imbued with some sort of mystical power that allowed her, as our queen, to grant us, her lowly serfs, to do something. The very idea that I should place someone on a pedestal and worship at their altar while they wavea magic wand over me is enough to make my blood boil, but that this person was then going to give me permission to do shit I already do? Eff that noise.


I caught a lot of flack for saying the above in a nicer way at the time. So when the next round of permission granting came through I kept quiet. This time we got a permission slip. Like a teacher allowing us to use the restroom in high school, i was going to be allowed to take part in a necessary bodily function (art) if only I filled out this cute little permission slip and affixed it to the first page of my art journal. Oh how cute! She’s giving me permission, like a child! Yay! Again, this came at a time when the author was pushing out a new book.

This isn’t cute, it’s manipulation being used to sell us stuff.